Arizona customers feel powerless as federally-owned energy company raises rates

People living in parts of Pinal and Maricopa counties say this month's power bill is way more than usual and feel rates were unfairly increased.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:27 PM MST

FLORENCE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - People living in parts of Pinal and Maricopa counties feel taken advantage of as the San Carlos Irrigation Project (SCIP), a federally-owned company, raised its rates.

Several emails from customers were sent to Arizona’s Family, especially from people living in Florence and Coolidge. They say the SCIP is their only option for power in the area, but since it’s run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), there’s no state oversight.

Judy Ray, a Florence resident, said she’s been an SCIP customer for over a decade and never had a problem. However, in the past several weeks, things have changed. “It’s been a nightmare,” said Ray.

She said her September electric bill from SCIP had doubled in the past couple of months, reaching about $470. Ray explained she’s on a fixed income and cannot work due to being wheelchair-bound. “It’s scary. Frankly, I’m scared. What am I going to do?” said Ray.

Her neighbors, Irene Klinakis and Nick Tsalikis were also shocked when they received their nearly $700 bill. At first, Klinakis blamed Tsalikis for using too much electricity. However, she later learned it wasn’t. “I totally understand that prices are going up. I mean, everything is going up. But for us, as customers, it doesn’t necessarily mean our salaries are going up either,” said Klinakis.

Attorney Brad Miller, who is representing several SCIP customers, explained why the power utility company doesn’t follow the same rules as other companies in the state. “So in this case, federal law allows them to just put out a notice on their website or local newspaper and say, ‘We’re going to adjust it. That’s it.’ And that’s exactly what they did in this particular case,” said Miller. He explained the higher rates were supposed to start this month but ended up being backdated to August.

Arizona’s Family reached out to the BIA and was pointed to an online notice stating it would reimburse customers who had already paid their August bill.

However, customers say other problems remain, including no state oversight for the BIA. “It’s basically about letting the big guy get away with what they want,” said Ray.

Republican Rep. Eli Crane is joining their fight. His team shared a letter he sent to the BIA on Tuesday.

There will be a meeting at the Florence Community Library on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Arizona’s Family is told a staff member for Crane will be there, and San Carlos Apache Tribe members will attend virtually.

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